When called, for the encampment left;
So the poor father was bereft
Of rest and peace, for war, thought he.
Is hard - one has no time to feel
That one has ceased to be.
And many months went in and out,
And rife with tidings was the world:
No more were Turkish flags unfurled,
The Moslems had been put to rout,
For the unscarred Romanian lads
Full well had fought throughout.
The papers wrote that all the men
That had been called the spring before
Were due to quit the site of war;
So to the village came again
Now one, and now another yet
Of those who had left then.
But they were long in coming, they.
He wept - he thought how they would meet,
So at the gate or in the street
He scrutinized the roads all day,
And they came not. And fear was born
And lengthened the delay.
His ardent hope waned more and more
And ever bleaker grew his fear;
And though he questioned far and near,
All shrugged their shoulders as before;
At last, then, he went to the barracks
To learn what was in store.
The corporal met him. "Sir, my son.
My Radu, well - how does he fare ?"
He did for all his children care,
But Radu was the dearest one.
"He's dead. In the first ranks, at Plevna
He fell. And well he's done !"
Poor man... That Radu was in dust
He had long felt, and felt past cure;
But now, when he did know for sure,
He stood bewildered and nonplussed.
Dead Radu ? What ? The news exceeded
All human sense and trust.
Be curst, o, fiendish arm and man !
"And how is George ?" "Sir, I'm afraid
Under a cross he has been laid,
Breast-smitten by a yataghan."
"And my poor Mircea ?" "Mircea, too,
Died somewhere near Smirdan."
He said no word - dumb with the doom,
With forehead bent, like, on the cross,
A Christ, he looked, all at a loss
At the mute flooring of the room.
He seemed he saw in front of him
Three corpses in a tomb.
With feeble gait and dizzy eyes
He walks into the open air;
While groaning, stumbling on the stair,
He calls his boys by name and cries
And fumbling for some wall around
To stand upright he tries.
The blow he hardly can withstand;
He does not know if he is dead
Or still alive; he rests his head
Upon a bank of burning sand;
His long, emaciated face
He buries in his hand.
And so the man sat woe-begone.
It was midsummer and mid-day;
Yet soon the sun faded away
And lastly it was set and gone;
The human wreck would never budge;
He just stood on and on.
Past him, men, women walked care-free,
Cabs on the highroad rumbled by,
Past marched the soldiers with steps high,
And then, the moment he could see,
He pressed his temples with his fists:
"Three, mighty God, all three !";